As I sat down to write this blog, it really hit me that it is already the end of September. It’s been over 6 months since this pandemic started and about 5 months since I began my practicum. Reflecting back, I entered this pandemic with feelings of uncertainty. Transitioning to classes online seemed fine at first since it was already classes we were used to. Since North Carolina cases were not as bad initially, I still saw my close friends safely and following guidelines. Nothing felt like an extreme change.
However, as time went on, the pandemic began to take its toll on me as it inevitably has on everyone else. Even simple things like going to the grocery store became a whole fiasco of timing it so the store isn’t crowded or being wary of grabbing takeout. As we began to bunker down even more strictly, it became hard to not feel frustrated at times.
Needing a break from North Carolina, I ended up going back to my parent’s place for a bit in New Jersey. When I relayed these feelings to my mom, she made a point that I hadn’t considered before. For the first time in over 6 years, I was actually home for more than one week. I had never considered it given that I talk to my family frequently but once it came to my attention, I thought back to how much I’ve missed in my family life.
Thinking about this in terms of my practicum, if I had gone to Zambia this summer, I would have missed the time I spent with my family. Don’t get me wrong, I still would have loved to do my practicum in person. However, missing one opportunity allowed me multiple other ones. If I had gone to Zambia, I would’ve spent maybe a couple months then and returned. Despite the challenges that came with doing the practicum remotely, I had the privilege of seeing my project from start to finish. Remote work also allowed for continuity with the project so despite my practicum officially ending soon, I’ll be staying on a while longer to help finish papers. Even though the study I worked on was not the original study I had signed up to do my practicum with, I developed qualitative data analysis skills that I really feel are an assets to future work. Importantly as well, I developed friendships and networks through Zoom, something which I thought would be very difficult.
As I wind down on my official time with this practicum and work on my deliverables, I am really thankful for the opportunity to work with the Zambia hub. My practicum was everything I had wanted it to be and I got more out of it than I had expected from remote work. I’m grateful for both the community here at Gillings and in Zambia for making this summer a great one!